Thanksgiving is Josh Rodriguez’s favorite holiday.
“It’s a time to reflect and be thankful for what we have, a time to show our gratitude to others, a time to be together with family and a time to share our love with others,” said Rodriguez, a 2008 graduate of South Pasadena High School.
“And a time to give back,” he added.
Many are unable to convey the motives for their actions, but Rodriguez’s inclination to share might be in his DNA.
“It was definitely an attitude instilled in me at a very early age by my Nanny,” Rodriguez said, invoking the British slang for grandmother. In this case, Nanny is Margaret Porter, Rodriguez’s maternal grandmother.
“We have a standing rule at our house where any and everyone is invited and welcome to our house during the holidays,” he said. “No one should be without family, food or a place to be during these times. I can’t tell you how many friends or random people would just drop in at our home over the years. It didn’t matter who they were or where they were from or why they were at the door, but my Nan would give them a big hug, take their coats, give them another hug and tell them they were welcome. My family would treat these people as if they were our own.”
It is an attitude Rodriguez has chosen to carry forward, and recently materialized when he stepped up to assist the church he attends with a food drive for his holiday of choice.
It began innocently enough. A couple of weeks ago, Rodriguez was shopping at a local grocery store for his own dinner when he received a social media post from his church, Fellowship Monrovia, reminding parishioners of a Thanksgiving food drive that was being organized to benefit Harambee Ministries in northwest Pasadena.
“A bunch of excuses started running through my head as to why I was too busy to help and how Harambee was too far from the store,” Rodriguez said. “But then I felt God move me to stop making those types of excuses and do what’s right and help one family have a better Thanksgiving. Especially in 2020, when things have not gone very well for many of us, one way or another, and I’m putting that very lightly.”
Rodriguez wasn’t content with helping just one family, and apparently neither were his friends.
“After dropping off the meal, I created my own Instagram story, saying how easy it was to shop for a quick meal and that it would provide joy to those in need,” he said. “I even offered to shop for people if they wanted me to because I can definitely understand the stress of being around people these days. From my one story, I got two people to reach out. I was ecstatic — the idea of feeding three families blew my mind, to the point where I shared what others had done and left the same offer on the table for anyone who was moved to act. Sunday night I went to bed excited to shop for five more families.”
Rodriguez might have been able to get some sleep, but social media never rests, a fact that was proved the next morning when the number of families had grown to 18, then 21. The deadline passed with Rodriguez, his family and friends providing 55 complete Thanksgiving dinners to families in need. He spent several days with a car full of food, and the past week with a heart full of gratitude. “Harambee” means “all pull together” in Swahili, a concept that certainly came into play in this instance.
“Thoughts that kept coming to mind to describe what these people were doing were overwhelming generosity, inspiring, humbling, unbelievable and deeply moved,” Rodriguez said. “Friends were posting videos on their social media, friends I hadn’t heard from or talked to in years reaching out to help, friends on the East Coast, and even friends of friends. People in the market were so moved by the story they connected their money-donating app with me as I was shopping because they wanted to be a part of something bigger than themselves and give back. It’s awesome to see the positive impact and the power of social media.”
Rodriguez said he has learned an important lesson in the act of “paying it forward.”
“Fifty-five families are going to know that there are good people in this world willing to act when called upon,” he said. “And it’s not just about the people who donated — everyone was a part of this, to the people sending prayers and positive thoughts, everyone contributed in way one way or another.”
While at SPHS, Rodriguez was a two-time all-Rio Hondo League and all-CIF water polo player, preceding his brother, Ryan, in starring in the sport. They are the sons of Greg Rodriguez and Debbie Porter, who has taught for more than two decades at Marengo Elementary School and is currently educating 2nd-graders.
Josh Rodriguez is an account executive for Redgate Software, a United Kingdom-based tech firm, and will be looking to help more needy families at Christmas.
“My hope is that people reading this will feel inspired to perform one act of kindness for someone else and be the change they want to see,” Rodriguez concluded.
Anyone who wants to help at Christmas is encouraged to email Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org.